Saturday, May 20, 2006

Ideas for a Genealogy Course Syllabus

The May-June 2006 issue of Everton's Genealogical Helper magazine has an article by Anne Hart titled "How to Write a Beginning Genealogy Course Syllabus."

The article describes planning a syllabus, generating a resource list, and creating a course description, an overview of the syllabus, learning objectives, suggested assignments and projects, and course competencies for successful students. Anne has done a wonderful job summarizing a very large subject.

Even though Everton is a subscription site (and therefore there is no link to this article or other current articles), there is a Free section here with older articles. There is also a Links section here with many links to genealogy web sites.

Can anyone recommend other sites with a genealogy course syllabus?

Need genealogy books? Check here

I get many emails from publishing companies offering genealogy books for sale, and I imagine you do too. But it's hard to find a fairly complete list all in one place.

George G. Morgan, a famous and prolific Ancestry columnist ("Along These Lines"), speaker, podcaster (check here) and blogger (check here), has put a genealogy Bibliography on his web site here (Warning: the page takes a long time to load due to all of the thumbnails). Note that all the links take you to Amazon if you want to buy a book.

The value of this web page is that most of the "good" books are in one place. You could print this off and check off what books you have and what books you would like to buy or read at a library.

What genealogy books do you have on your shelf? Which one has helped you the most?

Friday, May 19, 2006

Data Mining the USGenWeb Archives

As you can probably tell if you've been reading this blog every day, I am systematically going through the FREE genealogy sites and describing ways to extract data ("mining") about your elusive ancestors.

Today, we will visit the USGenWeb Archives, which are different from the USGenWeb sites for each state and county. I touched on these Archives in an earlier post, but they deserve a separate listing because of the content and organization. Rootsweb hosts many of the USGenWeb Archives, and has a separate search engine for them. All of the Archives data are in text files, which can be downloaded to your computer and hard drive if you want.

Follow this trail:

1) After you are on the USGenWeb Archives page, click on the "USGenWeb Archives" link in the middle of the page.

2) This link takes you to the introductory page for the Archives. Here you can see the different USGenWeb projects currently in work, plus links to a web page for each state. Click on one of the states - say, New York.

3) On the New York Archives web page, there is a list of Counties. As an example, click on the Jefferson County link.

4) The Jefferson County link takes you to a list of the Archives content available for that County. For this County, there are a number of topics that have archive files - they are highlighted in Blue. Scroll down and click on the "Will Records, Probates and Indexes" link.

5) There is now a list of the text files available in the Archives for Jefferson county NY probate records. Click on one of the files and you can see the file content. At this point, you could do a [File] [Save As] for this web page and save the file to your computer hard drive. If one of these files is for one of your ancestors, you probably have a gold mine of data.

Obviously, not all of you have this County (I do), but you can see the usefulness of approaching the USGenWeb Archives this way rather than through the Search engine on the USGenWeb Archives page.

The Archives do NOT contain all of the files available for a given State or County. The Jefferson County NY Archives pages have a link to the Jefferson County GenWeb page. At the County page you will find links to other non-text files (either HTML or PDF, usually) which can be searched.

If this script helps you, please tell me about it! Let me know that you are reading this blog! Thanks.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Have you seen the Ancestry Database Card Catalog? has added a Card Catalog to help users find records in their 23,700 plus items. Juliana Smith's 24-7 Family History Circle blog alerted me to this just as I left town last week. Juliana says: has created a new tool to help you find the information you need with the Ancestry Card Catalog. The Card Catalog is a free tool that allows you to search by keyword or title and narrow that search by date or location. A couple tips I picked up:

* Use the keyword search. It seems to pick up more than the title and location search. I tried a search for Brooklyn New York and got 125 hits with those terms in the keyword search, and only fourteen in the title search. This is due to the fact that the keyword search searches more fields, including the full description as it is set out in the database. The title search will only search that field.

* Try surname searches. Although this is primarily a search of databases, and not the names contained within them, don’t overlook searches using a surname. The Family & Local History Collection includes a lot of family histories and biographical materials that you may have missed.

* Even if you think you’re familiar with the offerings at, be sure to check this database out. Because of my work with the newsletter, I have been looking at postings daily for around eight years. I thought I knew exactly what was available for my areas of interest, but I ended up spending hours browsing through databases I had previously overlooked.

You can find the Card Catalog by clicking on the Search Tab and then clicking on the Card Catalog link on the right hand side of the page under the section “Search Resources” or directly through this link.

This is a Card Catalog only, but you can see the results of your search, including the title, category, and location, plus the number of hits in the record of the keyword. If you click on the title, then you can see a full citation and abstract of the record. However, in order to see the contents of the records, you have to subscribe to the service. Or you can do what I do - go to a local LDS Family History Center and use their subscription to Ancestry for free.

Egad - blue to orange in one swell foop...

As you can see, I changed my colors around on the blog. Ken Aitken at his blog informed his audience that Blue was so calming and relaxing, that perhaps it wasn't the best color for a blog that wants to be exciting and vibrant. So I chose the most vibrant option that Blogger least you won't go to sleep reading this due to the psychology of colors - maybe content, but not colors.

Oh, I like the fact that the typeface is bolder and bigger and the content width is larger - it uses more of the width of the screen.

So, we'll try this for awhile and see if the hits keep on coming.

I did get a lot of Anonymous comments tonight, which gets the stats up but fills up my email box...I may have to go to monitored comments to keep the spammers out. Hopefully, it was a one-time hit-and-run event.

Cheers -- Randy

Are you using Message Boards?

An effective way to find other genealogists who may be researching your elusive ancestors, or have data about them, is to use Message Boards.

One of the largest collections of message boards is at, which is affiliated with This collection has thousands of surname boards, thousands of locality boards, and some topic boards.

If you click on this link, you can determine of there is a message board for your surname or locality of interest. In the "Search Message Boards" box, enter a surname, state name or county name in the box for "Find a Message Board". When you click on "Search" you will get a list of boards with the keyword you entered.

Alternatively, you could find a surname board by clicking on one of the alphabetic letters. You could also find a state or county board by clicking on "US States".

When you go to a specific message board, you can see a list of posts submitted by other researchers. For instance, click here for the Seaver message board. As of today, there are 319 posts on this surname message board. You could choose to read them all one-by-one, but Ancestry/Rootsweb provides a Search capability at the top of the page.

To search on just the Seaver message board, you would click the button for the "Seaver Board" and enter your search terms. If you were searching, say, for Isaac Seaver, you might enter just "Isaac" in the Search box and click "Go". There is one post which mentions a given name "Isaac". You could click on the link and read the post and see if it helps you in your search. If you get too many hits with your search, then you could add a spouse's name or a locality to narrow the search.

Now I know that you have more than one surname, and are not too interested in the Seaver message board (only I am, apparently!). Rather than going back to the very beginning on the Rootsweb page, you can edit the URL (the address for the web page) for the Seaver message board web page, the one that ends in "...surnames.seaver" Put your cursor at the end of the URL, and click twice. That should put your cursor at the end of the URL. Then backspace over the name "seaver" and then type your surname of interest (say, "Smith") so that the URL ends in "...surnames.smith" and hit your Enter key. You can then go to the Smith surname message board.

Obviously, you can go to different surname message boards, with your surnames of interest, easily using this method.

You can do the same thing for localities too, but you will have to edit more letters in the URL, which ends with, for example, "...newyork.counties.jefferson" for Jefferson county, New York. Note that you could backspace back to "...newyork" and hit Enter and get the New York state message board. You could also change "...newyork" to say "...maryland" and go to the Maryland board. You could add ".counties.annearundel" to get to Anne Arundel County in Maryland.

I save one surname message board to my Favorites list and one locality board also, in order to be able to get to them quickly, and also be able to go to another surname or locality without starting at the beginning on Rootsweb. You don't need to save a Favorite for every surname or locality, using the method above.

I try to check my favorite surname and locality boards on a monthly basis, and every six months or so, I do a search across all the Message Boards (the "All Boards" button on the Search line) for my real elusive ancestors, usually using a given name, a surname, a spouse's name and a locality. You can limit the search to a certain time frame by clicking on the Advanced Search link and selecting a time frame in the "Posted in the Last" box.

If you haven't used Message Boards before, you might be surprised by how much information is available there. You may even find a cousin or two that can help you, or vice versa.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Data Mining for Genealogy Data (Part 4) also has 45 databases (including the WorldConnect database submitted by researchers, which I described in Part 2 of this series) that comprise vital records, the Social Security Death Index, and many others.

You can input a given name and surname in the search form at the top of the main Rootsweb page that says "Search"

If you put in say "Isaac" for a given name and "Seaver" for a surname, and click Search, you get a list of entries in 3 Rootsweb databases.

If you input no given name and "seaver" in the surname field, and click Search, you get entries in 26 of 45 Rootsweb databases, including vital records. Note that these are only entries in Rootsweb databases - Rootsweb does not have the complete census records, or other records, only records submitted to Rootsweb.

Note that you can use the asterisk (*) as a wild card in the name fields in case you want to cover alternate name spellings in the databases. This will probably increase the number of hits. If you have too many hits to search, then you could input different spellings of the given name or surname.

Data Mining for Genealogy Data (Part 3)

In Part 1, I showed how to search the Rootsweb Freepages site using Google. There is another method of searching the Rootsweb Homepages and Freepages by doing:

1) Go to the site.

2) Click on the "SearchThingy" link in the list of "Search Engines and Databases"

3) That takes you to a page where you can input Keywords for your ancestor search. Say you input the keywords "Isaac Seaver Westminster"

4) You then get a list of 19 pages on Rootsweb Homepages and Freepages and the USGenWeb that contain the search keywords.

The problem here is that you cannot put names in quotes in order to find people named "Isaac Seaver," like you can in Google. You get web pages with all of the keywords somewhere on the page - it may be Isaac Smith and Fred Seaver. Putting a locality may help to narrow the search a bit.

Play with this a bit with your elusive ancestors and see if someone has submitted information about them.

Everton's Helper will honor Heritage Quest subscriptions

In the May-June issue of the Everton's Genealogical Helper magazine, it was announced that Leland Meitzler was the new Managing Editor of the magazine. Leland was the owner of Heritage Quest magazine before it went out of business in early 2006. Leland replaces Holly Hansen at Everton's, who had brought that magazine back from dormancy. Leland's post on his blog announcing his new job is here.

The big news for Heritage Quest magazine subscribers who may have lost part of their subscription is:

In honor of Leland joining us, and following his wishes, we will honor subscriptions and committed ads for the issues of Heritage Quest that were not published. If you know anyone who might wish to take advantage of this offer, please have them call us at 800 443-6325 or 435 752-6022. Going forward, the Genealogical Helper will contain the best of both magazines and include an exciting, major new feature section on Genealogy, Technology, and the Web.

That is a real class act on the part of Everton's, and I know many subscribers will appreciate it.

Everton's Genealogical Helper magazine in its present form differs in content from its earlier years. A significant portion of the magazine is devoted to Questions and Answers on research problems submitted by readers, and some queries are answered by a genealogy professional. There are several articles and other features, plus lots of ads. I enjoy reading it, especially the research questions and answers.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Data Mining Genealogy Web Sites (Part 2)

One of the first things that beginning genealogists should do is determine if somebody else has done some of the research work for them. There are several FREE websites which can help you find others who are interested in your surname or your particular ancestral families. Of course, you must make the effort to prove that the work of other researchers is accurate.

The second site that I visit to mine genealogical data is the Rootsweb WorldConnect database. This is composed of over 420 million entries submitted by genealogists all over the world, with over 4 million different surnames submitted in about 400,000 databases.

If you enter the surname and given name of your ancestor into the box on the entry page, the program takes you to a list of hits. Bear with me as we investigate a typical search:

1) Enter "Seaver" as the Surname, "Isaac" as the given name.

2) You get 17 hits. If you click on one of the names in blue, you can see the entry for this person in the database. For instance, click on the 15th listing of Isaac Seaver (submitted by hendersonscholes - see his name in the RH column).

3) This takes you to the entry for that person, which provides birth, death, marriage, parent and child information. You could click on a parent or a child to get information on them. It also provides whatever notes the submitter included. It also provides the submitters name and email address.

4) Do you see the blue words "Index" "Descendancy" "Register" "Pedigree" "Ahnentafel" just above the data for the person in the database? If you click on one of these, you will get a report. "Descendancy" will give you a Descendants report, "Register" will give you a Register report of descendants, "Pedigree" will give you a pedigree chart, "Ahnentafel" will give you an ancestral report, etc.

5) Click on "Ahnentafel" and you will get an Ahnentafel report (list of ancestors back from the person in the file) for up to 6 generations. You can do a [File] [Save As] and save this report to a file on your hard drive. You can print it off by doing a [File] [Print] or you can highlight text, then [Edit] [Copy] and [Paste] the text into your word processor and save it.

6) Back to steps 1 and 2. What if you get hundreds of hits for your ancestor of interest? You can narrow the search by going to the bottom of the page in Step 2 (the list of 17 hits). If you enter birth dates or localities (I recommend year only and state only), or death data, or marriage data, or parent's names, or a spouse's name (try only a given name), you can reduce the number of hits and zero in on your ancestor of interest.

Caveat emptor, however! Not all data submitted is accurate. On Step 2) above, do you see all of the entries with Isaac Seaver's spouse being Martha Whitney? All of those are erroneous entries. Martha Whitney was the wife of Benjamin Seaver, not an Isaac Seaver. Obviously, your job is to prove whatever data that you find is accurate.

Go explore this web site - put your own ancestor of interest in Step 1. I've only explained the very basics here. The site is a tremendous boon to genealogists - and it is all FREE.

Padres 40 game report card

Why do I feel disappointed? They won 7 and lost 3 in the last 10 games. The overall record is 22 wins and 18 losses. If they just win 6 out of every 10 for the rest of the season, they will have 95 wins, which should be good enough for the playoffs. Of course, I'm disappointed because they won 14 of 15 before they lost the last two games, and 2 of the 3 losses were in the 10th inning.

The 40 game report card:

Pitching: B They are 3rd in the league in ERA, the starters produce consistent quality starts, and the relief pitching is decent. We just lost Woody Williams for 2 or more months, and Shawn Estes is still out.

Speed: B Offensive speed is decent, even the backup catchers can run. Stolen bases are up, bunts are up, etc. The only slow guys are Piazza and Castilla.

Defense: A- They have the fewest errors in the league, and show good range and consistency everywhere. There are very few bad plays.

Hitting: C- The team is last in batting average, last in homers, near the bottom in runs scored. Kahlil Greene is the only inconsistent power guy with 8 homers. Piazza, Castilla and Cameron have not produced power or average. The backup catchers have outhit Piazza.

Overall: B- The team is together, the effort is good, they have some injuries, but they have a chance at the playoffs.

My dad, a near-famous Little League coach and lifelong RedSox fan, always told me that Pitching, Speed, Defense and Power win games, in that order. The Padres are proving him right again.

Hope still springs eternal with me...they do need to keep the pace up through the year. They can't afford any more injuries. If Estes and Woody Williams return, the rotation will be pretty good.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Data-Mining Genealogy Web Sites (Part 1)

One of the first things that beginning genealogists should do is determine if somebody else has done some of the research work for them. There are several FREE websites which can help you find others who are interested in your surname or your particular ancestral families. Of course, you must make the effort to prove that the work of other researchers is accurate.

One of these is the Rootsweb Freepages, which are submitted by researchers for others to browse.

Using the Freepages link, you are led to a page with letters and numbers. You can click on one of the letters (say, S for Seaver) and see if someone else has submitted data for the Seaver surname. When you do this, you will see that you are a victim of the way the submitters named their pages. If they called their file the "Descendants of Robert Seaver" then you will find it in the D list and not the S list.

There is another way to find Freepages with your surname of interest. You can Google the string [rootsweb freepages seaver] (or your own surname of interest) and come up with quite a few hits, all on the Rootsweb freepages. If you want to find people with a specific ancestral person or couple, you could Google the persons name (e.g. [rootsweb freepages "robert seaver" ])or two surnames (e.g., [rootsweb freepages seaver ballard]). I find this method much easier and more efficient to use.

Try it - you may find a distant cousin!